Congress spent months in repeated futile attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The Republican Congressional leadership wanted to replace it with a harmful bill that would also greatly reduce taxes for the wealthy. Congress then failed to consider reauthorizing funds for community health centers. The existing legislation that provided $3.6 billion annually expired on Sept. 30.
According to the National Association of Community Health Centers, these centers provide services to about 27 million people in 9,800 locations around the nation. Most of the recipients of these centers are low income and/or live in medically underserved areas. These federal monies account for about 20 percent of the funding for these centers.
Besides allowing this sorry situation to occur, Congresses have also failed for decades to deal with the overall irrational health care approach used in this country. Our current badly flawed approach — a mixture of private and public insurance — is unnecessarily costly, doesn't cover everyone, and fails to provide care in a timely fashion resulting in unnecessary pain and suffering as well as greater costs. In addition, it is horrendously time wasting due to needless bureaucracy required by the private health insurance industry and Congress.
Unfortunately, Congress and the White House, responding to our system of legalized bribery, prioritize the profits of the private health insurance industry, pharmaceutical corporations and the hospital industry over the needs of the public. It is amazing that other nations, developed and some less developed, are able to provide much less costly systems that provide quality care for all and generally better health outcomes than the U.S. does. We should learn from their national approach to health care.
Our Medicare system could be a basis for such a system here. If it were expanded to all, and if Congress stopped writing requirements to benefit the health care industry, the bureaucracy and forms would be tremendously simplified. There is a single-payer bill in Congress from Rep. John Conyers, H.R. 676, that would accomplish this goal.
However, single payer alone is not answer. We must also clean up the environment (both indoor and outdoor) and protect our food supply, otherwise we are likely to see a continuing increase in the prevalence of many diseases. Some of these diseases were very rare before we embarked on the widespread use of remarkable chemicals and other substances with their possibly harmful side effects.
Last, but definitely not least, eliminate war! War kills untold numbers, causes incredible injuries, and destroys systems necessary to support people's health and well being. War also pollutes the air, water and soil while simultaneously greatly increasing greenhouse gases. Imagine how much good could be accomplished by using the money spent on destructive weapons for constructive domestic purposes.
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center's "Peace Train" runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.